Namatjira was announced winner of the $100,000 prize, now in its 99th year, at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney today for his portrait titled Stand strong for who you are.
The announcement was made virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“This is a really special moment for me and I am feeling a bit nervous and excited,” Namatjira said.
The Western Arrernte artist said he was honoured to be the first Indigenous winner of the Archibald, noting “it only took 99 years”.
Namatjira, the great-grandson of acclaimed watercolour artist Albert Namatjira, was awarded an OAM in June for service to indigenous visual art and the community.
Last year, he won the Art Gallery of SA’s $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize with Close Contact, a double-sided painting on plywood featuring a self-portrait on one side and Captain James Cook on the other.
SA Premier Steven Marshall today congratulated Namatjira on his Archibald win, saying he was “an absolute inspiration for young South Australian artists”.
Stand strong for who you are was up against portraits of refugee Behrouz Boochani, Indigenous author Bruce Pascoe and popular actor Magda Szubanski among the contenders.
The 55 Archibald finalists announced last week included Angus McDonald’s portrait of Boochani, the Kurdish-Iranian granted refugee status by New Zealand and Wendy Sharpe’s portrait of Szubanski.
Also among them was first-time Archibald prize entrant Meyne Wyatt, who last week became the first Indigenous artist to win any of the prizes on offer in the Archibald’s 99-year history. The actor and Wongutha-Yamatji man won the Packing Room Prize for his self-portrait.
The winner of the Sulman prize was also announced today, with Marikit Santiago taking home the award for her entry titled The Divine, while the Wynne prize was awarded to Hubert Pareroultja (West MacDonnell Ranges, NT) for his piece titled Tjoritja.